Share this entry

dead letter Syllabification: dead let·ter

Definition of dead letter in English:


1chiefly North American A letter that is undeliverable and unreturnable, typically one with an incorrect address.
Example sentences
  • Apparently they are working at the U.S. Post Office, in the dead letter department.
2A law or treaty that has not been repealed but is ineffectual or defunct in practice.
Example sentences
  • Why should we develop the common law to make the statute a dead letter?
  • In many ways the law has become a dead letter in Israel.
  • Some people are of the opinion that the 1689 Bill of Rights is a dead letter, but the law will need to be changed in order for this to be so; and this may be a long and tedious process.
2.1A thing that is impractical or obsolete: theoretical reasoning is a dead letter to a child
More example sentences
  • Communism is a dead letter, and nobody wants a return to military dictatorship.
  • The socialist objective is a dead letter today, but remember, it was a liability for Labor for a long time.
  • Jurisprudence, learning, and religiosity were not dead letters.

Definition of dead letter in:

Share this entry


What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day confidant
Pronunciation: ˈkɒnfɪdant
a person with whom one shares a secret...